I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Casiopea -- Eyes of Mind/Asayake

Some folks like myself who are of a certain age used to listen to this fusion/smooth jazz band, Spyro Gyra, which was based just a stone's throw (if said stone was thrown by missile launcher) from my city across Lake Ontario over to Buffalo, New York. I used to hear those guys all the time on AM and FM radio a few decades ago, especially the above "Morning Dance". I heard it for the first time in many many years last night, and all of a sudden, I had a craving for one of those orange juice-based cocktails with a dahlia plunked in it like a purple radar dish.

Well, I guess there was a small musical phenomenon along the lines of alternate universes involving Spryo Gyra and a similar band in Japan. Casiopea(カシオペア)and Spyro Gyra were both formed at about the same time in the mid-1970s, they decided to follow the mellow fusion path, and their names came from stylistic misspellings of something huge (a constellation) and microscopic (a form of algae) respectively.

I had always heard of Casiopea as this amazing band over the years but never really got the chance to know about them. Then, when I was doing the article on Tomoko Aran's(亜蘭知子)4th album "More Relax" earlier, I discovered that it was basically a collaboration between Aran and Casiopea. Keyboardist Minoru Mukaiya(向谷実)even produced the album.

So it was high time that I got to know the group. Casiopea was formed in 1976 and released their debut album, "Casiopea", in 1979 . The band has changed personnel over the years but I believe that at the time of the two songs I will be introducing, the lineup was Mukaiya, bassist Tetsuo Sakurai(櫻井哲夫), guitarist Issei Noro(野呂一生)and drummer Akira Jimbo(神保彰).

"Eyes of Mind" was a part of Casiopea's 4th album, "Make Up City" from November 1980, and it's this tight piece that seems to steer somewhere between funk and techno.  I don't particularly want to sip an Orange Mimosa to it; it just grooves too much for listeners to stay still for long. One can't help but to shimmy a bit to it since the individual members seem to be having too much of a good time themselves playing it. Noro was behind the making of the song which actually gained a definite article when it got its own album the next year, "Eyes of the Mind".

"Asayake" (Sunrise) is quite the song to wake up to, isn't it? No need for the Mimosa. The song first made its presence known via Casiopea's 2nd album, "Super Flight", in 1979. This was also another Noro composition and the man flew his guitar like a Strike Eagle fighter over the Pacific. I've put up the above video specifically since it identifies each of the members...and besides, the fashion back then is something to behold.

At the time, I think Yellow Magic Orchestra was the popular band in Japan, but Casiopea certainly deserved its time in the sun, and considering the fandom in the concert videos, it did.

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